Breastfeed to reduce SIDS risk

HUNTER health professionals and advocates are encouraging mothers to breastfeed their babies as one of several measures to reduce sudden and unexpected death in infancy.

Guidelines for parents and carers to ensure a baby is sleeping safely have expanded in recent months to include the breastfeeding recommendation.

Not-for-profit organisation SIDS and Kids Hunter Region, in its efforts to reduce the risk of sudden and unexpected infant deaths, is promoting the message.

Regional manager Helen Rawsthorne said a major focus of advocacy and education was safe sleeping practices for babies aged up to one year.

‘‘Research has not uncovered a cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but we do know how to try and reduce the risk of it happening,’’ Mrs Rawsthorne said.

SIDS and Kids recommends sleeping a baby on its back, keeping the head and face uncovered, having a smoke-free environment before and after birth, practising safe sleeping night and day, and putting the baby in a safe cot in the parents’ room.

The organisation’s scientific advisory group added a sixth recommendation: for mothers to breastfeed if they can.

SIDS and Kids said it followed the publication of a large American study on breastfeeding. Evidence suggested it could reduce the risk of sudden and unexpected infant death.

John Hunter Children’s Hospital neonatal nursery clinical nurse consultant Susanne Wooderson said the unit talked to parents about safe sleeping.

She said smoking was the biggest risk factor for babies.

The nursery also encouraged breastfeeding, if mothers were able to.

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